Company History

The Potted History


1951 ... We started life when William Smith, Grandfather of the current Managing Director opened a sales counter within the family business called E P Smith Glass, (a glazing business) within premises on London Road, Westcliff-On-Sea, Southend. The glazing business was sold and the Smith family emigrated to New Zealand. William Smith decided to stay in England and opened his own shop at 203 London Road, Southend to sell household paint and expanded into wallpaper and continued to sell some glass. 

1953 … Peter Smith joined the family business and later that year we moved premises to North Road, Southend.  One day a close relative of the founder, told us of his difficulty in obtaining supplies for spraying motor cars...... this is literally how we started in the Automotive Industry.

1954 ... We decided to take hold of this situation by investing in 200 specially made ready mixed colours.  We were the first distributors in the country to attempt this feat. Believe it or not 200 colours represented nearly 70% of colour demand at that time. To back up this investment, we added a second van and offered daily delivery service to all customers. We were in fact the first to offer this type of service to customers outside the main towns.

1955 … Essex Cellulose and Paint Supplies (1955) Ltd was formed and the business moved to 232 London Road, Southend.

1963 ... Movac opended in Ipswich in Gymnasium Street called Movac Supplies Ltd. By now our range of ready mixed colours for cars was in excess of 2000, and was in response to a flood of continental vehicles. The basic product was now a modified cellulose.

1966 … William Smith founder of the business died.

1968 … The Ipswich branch moved to larger premises in Cecilia Street, Ipswich.

1969 … Saw a change in direction for the business as we acquired a tool hire business and named it Equipto Tool Hire with premises at 603 London Road, Southend.  The main purpose of this acquisition was to service and repair spray equipment and the hire of master paraffin heaters which in those days was the main source of heat for bodyshops.

1972 … The advent of mixing machines around this time and the demise of ready mix colours was one of the first major changes to affect the industry. The change to mixing schemes however brought with it big problems to both manufacturers as well,  due to the tremendous drop in volume brought about by refinishers being able to make mini mixes and no longer needing to buy a litre for every job. 

1975 ... A branch in Romford named Essexc Cellulose Romford was opened as one of the first ICI independent distributors in the country.  In October Movac Group Ltd was formed to bind all 3 branches together. Technical advances and the change to new higher build 2 pack products exacerbated that problem; and that gallon once needed for a re-spray , is today as little as 1.6 litres.

1976 … A business in Maldon, Essex is purchased from Bryer Chemicals the AW Distributor and the name of the business was changed to Equipto Maldon.

1977 … Mark Smith current Managing Director joins the business as Stores Lad/Paint Mixer.

1979 … A new branch in Norwich opens in 47/51 Pitt Street.

1981 … A Head Office in Ipswich is opened at 11 Portman Road and the Ipswich Branch re-locates from Cecelia Street.

1982 ... All branches are re-named to Movac Southend Ltd, Movac Romford Ltd, Movac Maldon Ltd, Movac Ipswich Ltd and Movac Norwich Ltd. Volumes now began to suffer as the big re-spray shops using synthetic materials began to go out of fashion. Refinishers now had their own problems due to the toxic nature of hardeners used with 2 pack products. Movac now have 5 automotive reps field based.

1984 … Movac open a branch in Colchester in the Cowdray Centre.


1985 … A division within Movac was formed to sell woodfinish products.

1988 ... Health & Safety in the automotive market started to become a major issue, and with the advent of the  new C.O.S.H.H recommendations in the late 80’s, the industry began to incur heavy costs all round as companies invested heavily in new equipment. Distributors were now not even allowed to sell Paint to non Professional users. This also affected volumes as “over the counter” sales plummeted.

1992 ... The introduction of the EPA regulations, followed quickly by  VOC Output Licensing caused huge changes in products across both divisions with paint lines being phased out and new ones introduced.

We as distributors had to change very quickly to meet the new demands made on us, and we had to look very hard at extra services that now needed to be offered. These are now very wide ranging and as far as Movac are concerned include the Stock Control System “Stockguard”,  Stock Valuations, Profit Assessments on paint and consumables, Waste Management services , Spray-shop Design, EPA Consultancy, PAS125, BM Trada application standards and many more.

The Industrial Division cracks the £1M turnover for the year.


1994 … The Industrial Division’s growth is exciting and demands the employment of another two personnel.


1998 ... In February of this year we bought our sixth depot, formerly the well respected and highly successful Willow Wholesale in Ditton Walk, Cambridge. This perfect fit geographically and business-wise, now enabled us to fully service the whole of East Anglia daily.  Industrial growth continues and our sale force increases to 5 staff.

2000 … Saw the untimely death of Peter Smith, Chairman of Movac Group Ltd.

2001 … Mark Smith purchases the business from the Smith family.

2004 ... Movac Industrial product offer now includes Glass coatings and PVC.

2005 … Movac closes Colchester branch.

2006 … A new division for sales of Industrial Paint was formed.


2007 … Movac Group smash through the 10M turnover barrier!

2008 … Movac Industrial Division creates specialist subdivision called vernicci for the Metal Coatings market. Based in Norwich with its own warehousing and tech support staff supplying nationwide.



2009 … March 2009 Movac Cambridge moves to Melbourn near Royston to ensure better geographic coverage. This high tech building is better located and better equipped for our expansion needs. Industrial sales team is now at 8 staff, and now represents nearly 33% of our turnover.


2010 … Movac open a new site in Peterborough opening up the East Midlands for an improved service. Automotive field based staff 11.

2011 … Industrial sales team expand to 11 including dedicated technical support personnel.

New group record turnover, despite a recession, of £17M for the group.  In October Movac purchase 3 x branches from Hex at Coventry, Nottingham and Spalding.  Spalding site is closed.

2012 … Southend branch is closed and a new branch in Reading at Anglo Industrial Park, Fishponds Road, Wokingham is opened as the first branch to specialize in Industrial Wood Finish Coatings.

As part of our corporate digital and branding strategy, our new website is launched, using new, consistent branding and high quality imagery, under the banner "Looking for Colour", designed specifically to help customers navigate easily and quickly to find product information, including Technical Data & Material Safety Data Sheets which are also available online, and easily accessed by clicking on the "paint tin" icons beside product descriptions, for downloading and printing.

2013 ... Due to customer demand, Reading branch start selling automotive products, in addition to the industrial range.

2014 ... Movac are appointed Sherwin-Williams Automotive Distributor.

A growth in sales of our industrial finishes leads to an expansion of our Industrial Division sales force to 13 personnel, and the purchase of 2 extra Corob computerised mixing machines, bringing the total to 12.